Hours after the Supreme Court Thursday asked Karnataka Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar to take a decision on the resignations of 10 rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs before the day ended, the Speaker told the court that the process would take time and he won’t be able to complete it the same day.
In Bengaluru later in the evening, the rebel MLAs met the Speaker, who ruled out an immediate decision citing rules and parliamentary procedure, and said: “There is no date to decide the acceptance of the resignations. If I am satisfied, I will accept and if I am not satisfied the consequences are known. I will go by procedures.”
All eyes on what SC does next
If the resignations of 16 rebel MLAs are accepted by the Speaker, it is curtains for the ruling Congress-JD(S) coalition. The BJP, which wants to stake claim, has indicated it will wait for word from the Supreme Court Friday.
The rebel legislators had moved the SC against the delay by the Speaker in accepting their resignations, submitted on July 6. A bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose Thursday morning “permitted” the MLAs to appear before the Speaker at 6 pm. But the Speaker, in an application to the SC, said he was required to conduct an enquiry to ascertain “whether the resignation is voluntary and genuine”.
The court “requested” the Speaker “to grant an audience to the ten petitioners at the said time” and said the MLAs “if they so wish and are so inclined, shall intimate…their decision to resign, in which event, the…Speaker shall take a decision forthwith and, in any case, in the course of the remaining part of the day”.
If the resignations are accepted, the 13-month-old Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka will lose majority, paving the way for the BJP to stake claim to form the government. Since July 1, 16 Congress and JD(S) MLAs have submitted resignations — it means the coalition strength will fall to 101 compared to the BJP’s 105 plus two Independents in the 224-member House.
Following the SC order earlier, rebel MLAs flew back to Bengaluru on a chartered flight from Mumbai where they were holed up since July 6 to meet the Speaker. While the resignations of two of the 10 MLAs had been declared to be in the proper format on July 9, the Speaker Thursday perused the fresh resignations of eight others and found them in order.
However, Speaker Ramesh Kumar sought more time to consider the validity of the resignations — whether they are genuine and voluntary by interviewing the MLAs individually and after hearing arguments that they would place before him.
“Congress-JD(S) coalition in the state is going strong despite the efforts to destabilise. We are confident and prepared for a smooth and fruitful conduct of legislative sessions,’’ Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy said following the Speaker’s decision to examine the resignations of MLAs.
The Congress and JD(S) have issued a whip to all its legislators, including those who have resigned, to attend the Assembly session from Friday or face disqualification for six years under the anti-defection law for violating the whip.
“I am looking into their resignations. They will continue to be legislators of their party. The issue of whip is left to the party. All as per our records, whoever belongs to a particular political party and if that party chooses to serve a whip on its members it is binding on them,’’ the Speaker said on the 16 MLAs who have resigned.
“They have all given their resignations in the proper format now and I have received them. They asked me to accept them immediately but I said it cannot be done that way. As per Kaul and Shakdher, and as per article 190 of the Constitution, I must be convinced that the resignations are genuine,” he said.
“You come here and tell me to accept your resignation but I have to consider through the night whether they are genuine and voluntary. I have to look at the definitions of those words. I cannot stray away from what the rules state even if it benefits some but not others.”
The Speaker also said that he has written to the SC seeking a clarification on the directive to make a decision forthwith. “The Supreme Court has not directed to make any specific decision about the resignations but to make a decision,” he said, adding that the entire process was videographed and everything has been sent to the Supreme Court Registrar.
“Please do not say I am delaying the process because in many states resignations and disqualifications are not considered for years. Here, if you consider working days only three days have lapsed and people are acting like an earthquake has occurred,” he said.
The Speaker indicated that he anticipates more resignations to come his way in the coming days. “Today’s decision is that I have called them. I have heard them. I have taken their letters and I must be convinced. The remaining that will come in the course of time I must see if they are in order or not. Coming events cast their shadows in advance,” he said.
BJP Leader of the Opposition B S Yeddyurappa who is hoping that the resignations of the 16 coalition MLAs will be accepted paving the way for the BJP to stake claim to form government in Karnataka said he would wait to see the SC order Friday before commenting on the issue.